In our latest blog Cora Project Manager, and Construction and Engineering specialist, Charles Wright uses his interest in Car repair to illustrate the need for a “single version of the truth” managing complex projects.
Just this last week I was patting myself on the back for replacing the timing belt, V-belt, water pump, and other maintenance parts on my Ford Focus. Whatever tool I didn’t have I merely borrowed. For auto parts Amazon is really amazing (there are also other great online stores), and whatever I didn’t know how to do I simply found the answer on YouTube (there are also other great social video sharing tools online too). I suppose therefore not a revolutionary personal accomplishment in retrospect, and even less when it came to diagnosing, and fixing or replacing the ABS (Assisted Braking System) module. It’s a complicated feature on a Car that combines a motor, pump, hydraulic solenoids, values or actuators and electrical circuits.
I watched many videos online however replacing the entire part was the only route I was comfortable with actually doing myself. That’s the trouble these days; Cars have become engineering masterpieces that are easy to drive, safe, reliable, do more than just get us from A to B…and impossible to fix.
There are a number of challenges that the Engineering and Construction industry is currently facing, and there are a number of publications that detail them, issues like generational gaps; shortage of qualified labour; compliance and environmental issues to name but a few. Two major issues that I would like to compare to my Car woes to are Technology Adoption and Project Complexity.
Depending who you ask or which industry you look at, you will be bombarded with various statistics that show project failure rates, and, even successful projects that fall into the over budget and behind schedule category too. If you put the numbers aside, it’s clear that on average a ‘large’ portion of projects undertaken, where a group of people or groups of people agree a limited duration investment, statistically are destined for disappointment, usually and unfortunately near the end of its duration when the money has already left one’s pockets. In fact, in many ways, project failure, the poor availability of staff, maybe the generation gap or even compliance requirements are as a result or partly contributable to projects becoming more complex.
I remember back in 2003 I was a Field Clerk working on a green-fields extension project for a Low Sulphur Gas Oil Facility in Abu Dhabi. If to oversimplify, we were basically extending an existing plant to increase it’s output. My area of responsibility included monitoring progress and basic field services for piping and equipment installation. I was one of many field clerks, my area included a section of the plant with a platinum catalyst process (developed by UOP, now Honeywell) which required a seamless metal pipe to run from the top of a 50-meter platform to near ground level. People install piping all the time, but I remember sitting and listening to countless plans and arguments into the night on how to install this given that it was routed in and around equipment. Seamless is a little different to seam piping based on its manufacturing process.
Therefore, it arrived on site pre-manufactured for installation, and ‘threading the needle’ is the right saying in this case. This was merely one form of project complexity to deal with. Projects are becoming more and more complex because as you have seen here we are finding newer ways that need complex designs to process fuels, and other complexities are relevant because we are required to follow more and more regulatory compliance’s on projects, we need to deliver quicker with fewer, the public has more access to comment and have an impact on what is being done, we need to be able to use repeatable recorded and demonstrated processes as to share competitive advantages with customers, we need to manage risks with solutions not only with money (or faith), this all even with the help from the Amazons and YouTubes of the world.
Project owners need a global like-for-like view of projects, so that they can pick the right project investments early, and bin the wrong projects even earlier. There are a lot of good tools out there like the Amazon and YouTube in construction, however coming back to my Ford, if I am truly going to consider fixing or replacing my Ford’s ABS unit, I need to have a view of both worlds.
The same goes for construction, as a project owner I need a central view of potential and existing projects, and in fact if I’m going to share a competitive advantage to customers I need to build from historic successful projects too. There are many dedicated complex applications out there on the market that will provide tools for project selection, planning projects to detailed levels of execution, managing the complete customer and sales processes, the journals of accounts, or manage the project artefacts. The Cora Platform is an enterprise portfolio and project management platform that provides the functionality required to make informed decisions via a centralized system that brings together portfolios, programs, organizations, strategies, resources and projects across the enterprise – providing a single version of the truth. It provides Control to manage scope, financials, progress and quality of project delivery. It provides a platform to manage Governance to continually assess project performance against a defined criterion and optimize resources to fulfil the strategic priorities of the organization. It also provides a platform for Insight into the required to roll out fail-safe, strategically-aligned projects that utilize resources and deliver maximum value. This means the Cora Platform can be deployed and then adapted to replace existing systems in certain cases, or it can be adapted to work with existing systems to summarize complex data from complex systems into a simplified view combining other parts of the business that may have not been managed in the dedicated tool. In my opinion, where the Cora team flourishes most is being a business partner rather than a software provider. We thrive at helping you identify a business gap, and coming up with intuitive solutions to solve them. In addition, as both developer and implementer, we can quickly act on customer needs and wants, plugging any further gaps that may arise.
It’s exciting times for Cora Systems. We have started to assist an increasing number of Engineering and Construction customers and we are building a roadmap to suit. Statistically, according to a study by Forrest Burnson in 2015 entitled “Construction Software Buyer Report”,
- a whopping 39% of small to medium sized construction companies are expected to manage their supply chain with manual methods.
- 31% of those surveyed manage with spreadsheets
- only 13% will buy a dedicated ERP
- while 6% will buy a commercial off the shelf supply chain tool
Most surprisingly was that this was not much different to larger companies either:
- 33% will also use a manual method
- 24% still use spreadsheets
- only 21% used commercial tools
- or 27% with a dedicated ERP.
With more and more projects becoming more and more complex, there is a growing trend for construction projects to outsource not only specialized parts of a build, but even administrative tasks too, given the limited duration nature of construction projects. This is not only to capitalize on competitive advantages from niche specialists on short term contracts, but also another way to manage risk.
Given this trend, let’s put this into perspective, as an example, a study by EC Harris who detailed an analysis for business information systems suggests that a “typical” large building project (in the £20–£25 million range) the main contractor may be directly managing around 70 sub-contracts of which a large proportion are small – £50,000 or less.
Let’s do the math.
So let’s assume for those 70 contracts, assume that these might be suppliers too, and let’s assume this building project is by a portfolio company of around 10 asset programmes, and assume at least 5 projects per programme.
So, 70 x (5 x 10) = 3,500 possible contracts for one company to manage!
Cora Systems is addressing this by building in standard supply chain functions into the system to help customers with these gaps. For instance, modules for Capacity Management, new Cost Management modules, which support various rules of credit, Workflow to help with contracting standards like NEC4 or JVC Contracts, and many more.
In addition, we are also addressing Workforce Management functionality too. No contractor ever walks onto a site and decides themselves where they want to build and what they want to build, it comes from a design, this needs to be communicated, managed and usually reported to other stakeholders. Feedback of performance is therefore to be recorded and reported on. Over and above Timesheets, Cora Systems has rolled out and is rolling out more dedicated functions like Progress S Curves, Portals for reporting and Mobile Applications to support these processes, together with existing functionality the platform can manage the bill of quantities, bill of materials, manage changes, and even simple items like Checklists (Punch Lists), or fast track site-based queries to the Engineer.
If only they did MOTs too…
To find out more about how Cora PPM assists in managing complex construction projects in one centralized system check out this video of our recent Webinar, we will also be exhibiting at Project Controls Expo, November 14th, Stand 27.